Content Marketing Foundations

Creating valuable content for your customers has become the key to engaging your existing customers and drawing in new customers. Dayna Rothman Director of Content Marketing from Marketo defines Content Marketing as “The process of creating valuable, relevant content to attract, acquire, and engage your audience”. The old ways of advertising no longer work. There are soo many companies vying for everyone’s attention that the old methods get drowned out with the noise.

Creating Your Content Plan

Creating content that is valuable it helps you break through in seven ways: (Rothman, 2015)

  1. Engages individuals on their own terms
  2. Based on interactions with your buyers
  3. Tells a continuous story
  4. Is the right fit for your channels
  5. Has a clear purpose – goal, thought leadership brand awareness, lead awareness
  6. Has pre-defined metrics
  7. Is almost always evergreen – content should last months or years, a content arc should last years to get the most bang for your buck.

Our society expects value upfront now and the traditional advertising methods are turning consumers away from their products. “71% of consumers trust solutions that provide useful information – without trying to sell something” (Rothman, 2015). 

Because technology has exploded over the last 15 years, now most people use multiple devices or media channels to find or use information. It is critical that the content you create is compatible on multiple mediums and channels. An example is you have a potential customer that is talking about your business with your friends, they think (incorrectly) that they saw it on Facebook but it was really on Instagram, if you have the same information on both that potential customer can pull up your profile or article by searching on Facebook and show it to their friends while they are interested in it and they can see the information or content directly from you.

“Brands today need to become their own publishers” (Rothman, 2015).  By creating the thought leadership in-house, you’re creating the content in house.  You are not continuing to spend money to rent another audience you are creating your own. Gary Vaynerchuk strongly promotes that people are becoming their personal brands and it has become a significant strategy to do the publishing yourself.

What’s Thought Leadership??

“A thought leader looks to the future and sets a course that others will follow.  Thought leaders look to existing best practices to come up with better best practices.  They format change, often causing disruption.” (Rothman, 2015).

Elon Musk and SpaceX is an easy example of thought leadership. No one was talking about traveling to Mars (not seriously anyway) and Elon Musk looked at the Space Travel industry and that astronauts have not landed on another planet ever and that it was in the 1960’s when astronauts landed on the moon. He thought about where he wanted to go, Mars, started a company understanding that he needs to disrupt how other space travel companies currently do business and have other support his dream. SpaceX has done amazing things since its creation in 2002, including massive savings in space launches, but also addressing the waste of allowing all of those rockets to run out of fuel, detach from the ship and fall into the ocean.

Creating Content

There are a number of different forms creating content can take.  You must first consider if it is high-value content such as an eBook which is 5 to 10 pages or a definitive guide which can be between 50 and 160 pages, that you are creating.  Other forms of content that are not considered high value are an infographic, product datasheet, slide deck, cheat sheet or a blog post, all of the content being provided still needs to be valuable to prospective leads.

When creating your content, it is important to consider the metrics but we will discuss that later in this summary.

The Content-arc

The content you create will have a content-arc, if the content you are creating will be valuable for years then it has a long arc which can be very valuable as new customers find your website and find that there is a wealth of information available to them.  If you write a blog post about something that is trending on social media or an upcoming music festival the content arc will be quite short.  It is best to plan on the calendar the content you are creating and the content arc so that you can stay current with your customer base and continue to provide content that your customers want.

The Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is looking at the path your new customers come from, where they first saw the content you created, if it came from paid advertising or a referral on an influencer’s blog post, all the way through the process to where they signed up for your service or product.  At the beginning of the sales funnel aka TOFU, which is the top of the funnel, which often will have simple content available for free, whether it an infographic or a blog post.  The second part of the funnel aka MOFU, which as you may have guessed is the middle of the funnel, which may also have a gate strategy which is explained further in this summary, at this point you can often have your interested buyer fill in contact information, where you can learn more about your customer but also find a personal way to contact them and send content directly to them, through an email, or if you use a Facebook login page.  Finally, your interested buyers will reach the BOFU, the bottom of the funnel, this is where there is a clear call to action (CTA) and to pay to have access to the other information on the website, whether it is a collection of eBooks on a subject or a definitive guide.

Joe Pulizzi from the Content Marketing Institute came up with the 411 rule, which is:

  • 4 educational assets – thought leadership, tips, cheat sheet, not marketing material
  • 1 “soft promotion” – webinar, vendor study, but can include thought leadership
  • 1 “hard promotion” – sales datasheet

This mix can provide the right content to engage with your customers.

Your Content Team

Your Content Team is responsible for all of your marketing efforts.  Depending on the size of your organization you may have a large team, or it may be just one employee.  It all starts with the Managing Editor; beyond that you can have an Associate Editor.  Beyond that, you will have Employee contributors, Subject Matter Experts, and Content Requestors, who can be existing customers or prospective customers.  The skills that you are looking for in a Managing Editor and Associate Editor are:

  • Excellent writing skills
  • Excellent project management skills
  • Copyediting skills
  • Passion for content
  • Cross-functional communication skills
  • Desire to be a thought leader and speak at industry events

The responsibilities of the Managing Editor for the Content Team are:

  • Creates the content strategy and the editorial calendar
  • Coordinates amongst teams
  • In charge of brand voice, look, feel and quality
  • Writing and editing
  • Vendor vetting and coordination

It is important that your content aligns with the various stakeholders in the company.  If the customer service representatives are the only ones participating in the content ideation, then the content is created in a silo and will not reflect the various marketing needs of the other units in the organization (Rothman, 2015).

When considering your content, you need to have a persona of your customer in mind.  Who are you trying to attract to your company, is it another business, for a business to business (B2B) or a business to consumer (B2C)?  It is important to know these persona’s and demographics when deciding the style and tone you want to use in your content.  Is it more conversational, or jargon-y with lots of product statistics? 

Promoting Your Content

Gating Strategy

With your content and the way you wish to promote it, you need to decide if you are going to use the Gating strategy.  The gating strategy is putting a form in front of your content for the purposes of gathering lead contact information.  By using the gating strategy, you gather lead information immediately or depending on your lead you may drive them away with this strategy.  The other options you have available to you is to set up a gate at the buyer stage of the content.  The fourth option is to use a gate based on the asset type; the highest value content requires passing through the gate before it can be received, and some content still requires being paid for before receiving access.

Dayna Rothman from Marketo lays out five steps to outlining your promotion strategy:

Step 1 – Create a Strategy Document to include:

  • Topic
  • Audience
  • Goals
  • Thesis
  • Table of contents
  • Buying stage
  • Promotion suggestions

Step 2 – Always score your Content, base the score on:

  • Content Type
  • Content buying stage
  • Content persona

Step 3 – Meet with Stakeholders

Set up time with your promotional teams:

  • Demand generation
  • Social Media
  • Online marketing
  • Product marketing
  • Public Relations

Step 4 – Create a Promotion Plan:

  • Work with each team stakeholder to create a promotional plan
  • For large assets, consider meeting weekly or bi-weekly until launch
  • Assign a project manager
  • Ensure that team members stay on task

Step 5 – Make sure You Plan is Multichannel:

  • Be where your buyers are
  • Maximize your exposure by promoting your content on multiple channels
  • Promote content on appropriate channels for the content type
  • Always test your promotion strategies!

Promoting on Social Media

Tips for success with Social Media Promotions

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Organic isn’t enough on its own; don’t be afraid to pay to boost your presence
  • Focus on valuable content and solid offers
  • Create strong calls to action (CTAs)
  • Always add value
  • Never forget that social is a two-way street
  • Facebook ads (that appear on the right-hand side banner)
  • Cover photos
  • Apps and tabs (appear on your business profile page)
  • Organic tweets
  • Promoted tweets
  • Promoted trends
  • Twitter Lead Generation Cards
  • LinkedIn updates
  • LinkedIn sponsored updates
  • LinkedIn ads
  • LinkedIn groups

**Especially helpful for business-to-business (B2B) deals

  • Visual content
  • Optimize for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Measuring Your Content

It is critical to establish what your measurement metrics and goals are when first planning your content.  Ensure to engage with the other stakeholders in your organization to ensure that what you are defining as success matches what executives are looking for.  It is important to consider how much time, effort and salary is going into creating this content, you should also consider the intellectual property.  If your organization is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) where you offer services that mask your customers IP address to offer them anonymity while surfing on the net, if you create marketing content such as an eBook that costs $15,000 to create and promote on various websites and social media platforms, and the information will be considered stale in one year, and the customer subscriptions are selling for $25 a year, you will need to generate 600 new customers just to break even.  It is important that you consider cost when establishing measurement metrics for your content. 

Google Analytics

When looking at traffic to your website you can use Google Analytics to see if there was an increase or decrease in traffic.  Which promotion strategies were most effective.  One of the most interesting things I found is that you can see how long a generated lead was on your website for, which is known as bouncing, and Where they visited afterwards, which is known as the exit pages. 

Social Media Response

You can also look to measure how successful the response was by how many “likes” were received, how many people commented on the posts, were they positive or negative? Was there one social media platform that received a bigger response than the others.  Did you get more people to subscribe to your company profile?  These insights could help you determine where your promotional dollars are most effectively used in generating new customers to your business. 

Conclusion

Advertising methods have certainly changed in the last 10 or 15 years.  The method of creating content for people to read or have for free is a distinct change from how marketers used to attract customers.  As a consumer, I find that it is effective, and it builds a level of trust with the organization.  It has become what is necessary to stand out and draw in customers who are interested in your products. 

References

Rothman, D. (Director). (2015, May 7). Content Marketing Foundation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/Marketing-Lead-Generation-tutorials/Content-Marketing-Fundamentals-2015/369044-2.html?org=nait.ca

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